For the last year or so I have drawn quickly in fountain pen, committing myself to the lines as they hit the paper, prioritising expressiveness over draughtsmanship, movement over accuracy.
However, I have returned to pencil and have spent more time just watching a single species, even just focussing on the head, aiming to capture more accurately its structure. It is difficult to picture the skeleton and muscles beneath the feathers. In the lapwing, I think the neck vertebrae articulate behind, not beneath, the skull then bend in an S shape to join the body (see this related species’ skeleton). So part of what we see as the back of the head is actually the upper neck, with plumage squaring off the shape. There is a pronounced bone ridge above the eyes.
I was uploading these pictures last night when I happened on a programme on the radio which I found profoundly moving. Mark Thomas is a comedian, of my generation, who cut his professional teeth on the alternative scene biting into Thatcher. In Bravo Figaro, we meet a man of his time, a South London self employed builder, a hard grafter, with little education and a thirst for self-improvement, and handy with his fists outside the home and within it. As Mark describes it, his Dad was a bit “punchy”. This is not a metaphor. In his father’s prime, the family trod carefully, on eggshells as they say.
We are then taken through the story of this man’s love of opera, his unlikely breaching of the bastions of England’s middle class. Mark interviews his brother and his mother, interspersed with his father’s words which are few and inarticulate as he now has a degenerative brain condition. From this he constructs the material for an hour long comedy narrative. There is no reconciliation, not even forgiveness, no sentimentality but the story leads to that thing I describe here as the gift, both surprising and surreal.
If you are of a certain generation and grew up in impoverished South London or somewhere like it, some of this will resonate. I found, at the end, that I was shedding tears.